Thursday, January 15, 2009

Inadequate Description

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
~ Tao Te Ching, a portion of One ~
These are the opening sentences to the Tao Te Ching and I find myself returning to them again and again. In their simplest form, these two lines merely point out that Tao is so much greater than the capabilities of human intellectual that, any attempt to boil it down to a word, sentence or paragraph, is wholly inaccurate.

This afternoon, however, I was struck by a very elementary realization. How can any of us expect to be able to define the mother of all things when we are totally incapable even of defining ourselves? It would be like trying to describe a car and yet not being able to describe a wheel, engine or turn signal.

I can certainly describe myself to you. I can list my height, weight, gender, preferences, beliefs, etc. But I can't tell you what makes me, me. I know that I'm more than the sum of my body parts and processes. I know that there is something more -- some call it soul, others spirit. But, try as I might, I can't definitively tell you what it is.

So, if I can't adequately define the entity that I intimately know the best -- myself -- how on earth could I define and describe something so immense that, in comparison, I look like one blade of grass or one grain of sand?

In my mind's eye, only an extremely arrogant and pompous person would even think that they could do justice in trying to define Tao (or God, Allah, Jehovah or whatever else). We're talking egotism to the millionth degree.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.